Vice President Kamala Harris urges people to get vaccinated during visit to Greenville

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Vice President Kamala Harris visited Greenville Monday to encourage South Carolina residents to get themselves and their families vaccinated.

"Vaccination gives protection," she said. "This act, in a way, is a projection of love thy neighbor," she said to a crowd of over 150 volunteers and local Democratic officials at Greenville's Phillis Whitley Community Center.

The volunteers, many of whom where associated with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, had been canvassing and mobilizing communities to get their shots.

Harris' stop in the state is part of a national effort by the Biden administration to vaccinate 70% of American adults by July 4.

Besides Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, Second Gentleman Dough Emhoff and cabinet members will be making their way to North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Louisiana-- states with some of the lowest vaccination rates. South Carolina, which has fully vaccinated only 39% of its residents as of Monday morning, is also one of them.

Until now, over 143 million Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to CDC data as of Monday morning. That's about 43.4% of Americans, and about 52.4% have received at least one shot.

But as cases decline nationally, so has the pace of vaccinations.

"These vaccines are built over decades of research,” Harris said, zeroing in on fears caused by misinformation surrounding the vaccines. “I know it seems like it happened overnight.”

Part of the reason why people are hesitating to take their vaccines is because there are barriers that make it harder for people to access them, she said.

There are transportation barriers, she said, and barriers that come from the lack of childcare and support experienced by parents, both before and after getting their shots.

Meanwhile, at Clemson's Memorial Stadium, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, who was not in attendance in Greenville on Monday, commented on Harris' pro-vaccination message while at a ceremonial bill signing that will allow college athletes to benefit financially from the use of their name, image and likeness.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster shakes hands with Athletic Director Dan Radakovic after he signed s. 685, Compensation of Intercollegiate Athletes, a ceremonial bill-signing at Memorial Stadium in Clemson Monday, June 14, 2021.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster shakes hands with Athletic Director Dan Radakovic after he signed s. 685, Compensation of Intercollegiate Athletes, a ceremonial bill-signing at Memorial Stadium in Clemson Monday, June 14, 2021.

“The vaccine is plentiful,” McMaster said. “At our high point, we had over 1,000, maybe 1,200 locations, counting pharmacies, as well as doctors offices and hospitals," McMaster said.

“I think now there are over 900 available, and a website to tell you where they are, when they’re open and which vaccines they have. So anyone that wants a vaccination, now is a good time to get it.“

Close to 200 people protest Harris' visit

Away from the indoor stage set at the Phillis Wheatley Community Center, American flags, banners featuring a machine gun wielding Donald Trump, and signs decrying Harris’ lack of action at the U.S.-Mexico border lined the sidewalks across the street.

A handful of Democrats countered the protesters with Biden-Harris flags and a quiet presence. But the majority of the throng were Republicans who came out to protest the vaccine clinic Harris would tour next .

“My body, my choice. I feel that if people want to get the vaccination, they're more than welcome to,” said Nicole Morgan. “I don't think vaccines should be mandated or forced. I think everybody has the right to do what they want to with their bodies.”

Trump supporters with the MYSCGOP group, including Nicole Morgan, right, and her daughter McKenna Morgan, left, protest as Vice President Kamala Harris visits Greenville Monday morning.
Trump supporters with the MYSCGOP group, including Nicole Morgan, right, and her daughter McKenna Morgan, left, protest as Vice President Kamala Harris visits Greenville Monday morning.

The protesters lined up well before Harris' arrival in Greenville. Nearly three hours had passed, and they started dispersing just after Harris moved to the next site, a clinic set up at the Caine Halter Family YMCA.

Organizer Pressley Stutts said about 200 people came out to the three-hour rally, which was aimed at letting the current administration know their thoughts on vaccine mandates.

“If we don't stop it, there are going to be some mandates coming, and we want to make sure that there's no mandates. People should be free to get the vaccines they want. Free not to get it. But what's happening now is that there's a discrimination starting to take place,” said Stutts, who chairs the Greenville County Tea Party and is a member of the pro-Trump coalition of political groups, mySCGOP.

Harris said her visit was a way to "step over the fence"

Inside the Caine Halter Family YMCA, the second stop of the tour, five vaccination stations were set. Lawanda Curry, a student from Greenville, sat beside Angela Godfrey, a pharmacy manager, readying herself to get her shot.

Harris, who was accompanied by Walgreens CEO Rosalind Brewer and tour guide Niki Pappos-Elledge, spoke to Curry and clapped when the shot had been administered.

In her speech to the audience, Harris used the “love thy neighbor” analogy again. “You’re doing this for people who you may never meet,” she said. Her reason of coming to Greenville was to "step over the fence" and have a conversation.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with Kaitlyn Ward, as Angela Godfrey administers a vaccine shot at Caine Halter Family YMCA in Greenville on Monday, June 14, 2021.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks with Kaitlyn Ward, as Angela Godfrey administers a vaccine shot at Caine Halter Family YMCA in Greenville on Monday, June 14, 2021.

Outside the vaccine clinic, a smaller crowd, compared to the one outside the community center, gathered.

One woman from North Carolina drove hours to show her support. Renee Taylor held postcards of President Joe Biden and Vice President Harris in her hands. Her t-shirt read, “Women weren’t given the right to vote, they won it.”

“I’m here to see our vice president, for all that she does for the females in our country,” she said.

Next door, children from a YMCA summer camp stood outside, and alongside them was a family from Pickens County.

More: Will Vice President Kamala Harris' visit increase vaccine rates in South Carolina?

Doretha Johnson was with her daughter, Rebecca, and her two grandchildren. Doretha wanted to show her grandchildren history being made.

“We want them to learn and understand what the future holds for them [her grandchildren],” Doretha Johnson said. “I’m hoping this is something not only my grandchildren will remember but other kids,” she said pointing to the children from the YMCA summer camp. “I want them to do right and move forward and continue educating each other.”

Greenville News reporters Zoe Nicholson, Tamia Boyd and Scott Keepfer contributed to this story.

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: VP Harris urges people to get vaccinated during visit to Greenville